Many species are accumulating climatic debt as they fail to keep pace with increasing global temperatures. In theory, concomitant decreases in other stressors (e.g. pollution, fragmentation) could offset some warming effects, paying climatic debt with accrued environmental credit. This process may be occurring in many western European rivers. We fit a Markov chain model to ~20,000 macroinvertebrate samples from England and Wales, and demonstrate that despite large temperature increases 1991–2011, macroinvertebrate communities remained close to their predicted equilibrium with environmental conditions. Using a novel analysis of multiple stressors, an accumulated climatic debt of 0.64 (±0.13 standard error) °C of warming was paid by a water-quality credit equivalent to 0.89 (±0.04)°C of cooling. Although there is finite scope for mitigating additional climate warming in this way, water quality improvements appear to have offset recent temperature increases, and the concept of environmental credit may be a useful tool for communicating climate offsetting.
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Vaughan IP, Gotelli NJ. Water quality improvements offset the climatic debt for stream macroinvertebrates over twenty years. Nature communications. 2019 Apr 26;10(1):1-8.